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7 ways to get early users for your startup without spending on marketing

You may have tried many ways to get early users, but the problem is that most of the time, it is not adequate enough to get it off the ground. So, in this article, I’ll share 7 proven ways that you can get early users for your startup without spending a lot of money on marketing.

Getting initial traction is one of the most important goals for any startup. Even with a great product and a perfect business model, if you don’t have a pool of early users, your startup won’t succeed. Therefore, it is an essential component of a startup’s growth. 

If you are bootstrapping a startup, you may have a very low budget or none at all for marketing. With a small budget, you can’t hire an agency or marketing department to handle customer acquisition — you must earn your first customers yourself.

Before you start building your product, you have to understand the market problem. According to Statista, 42% of startups fail because there is no market need for the product. 

Additionally, many startups fail because of a product-first mentality. Basically, the startup tries to come up with a product before they fully understand what the market needs.

Instead, the first step is to define your target audience, find out what their problems are, and then find the best solution to those problems. 

When your startup has achieved product-market fit, you can then turn your focus to finding its first customers. So, this blog will look at the several ways that you can get initial traction for your startup without spending a dime on marketing.

7 ways to get early users for your startup

  1. Start with friends and family

During the early stages of your product development process, your friends and family are your biggest supporters (and critiques!). Engage in conversations with the people you know and the people they know. You would be able to determine the pros and cons of your startup as well as get interesting views from different perspectives.

Listen to their problems and ask about their pains. You are only here to listen to their problems and to offer a solution that can make life easier. Listening and empathizing should be your primary focus instead of selling.

  1. Connect with your expanded network

If you’re creating a product for a specific niche, chances are that you already know in that industry. Get in touch with people in your niche, past clients, and those in your network and tell them about your new startup venture.

Additionally, you can also contact your existing connections, as well as mutual connections, by sending them a LinkedIn Inmail. Tools like Dux-Soup and can be used to automate the LinkedIn outreach process.

The key here is to provide value to your early users. When you do that, they will become your advocates, allowing you to acquire more users.

  1. Launch on startup directories and product discovery platforms

One of the ways that a startup can get new customers is by launching on directories and product discovery platforms. Product Hunt, BetaList and Remote Tools are some of the best free startup launch platforms where founders launch their products to an audience of passionate early adopters. 

Not only will this help you get initial users for your startup, but will also help improve your website’s SEO and increase the credibility of your domain. This listicle contains over 25+ platforms where you can promote your product and get the initial traction for your startup or product.

  1. Engage with the community

Find forums in which your target audience hangs out and communicate with them on a regular basis. Ensure that you are genuinely helpful to them in order to build stronger connections with others in the community. 

Getting involved in forums and community sites, such as Facebook groups, Reddit, and Quora is an effective way to establish yourself as a thought-leader. Besides the popular community forums, there are niche-specific communities such as Indie Hackers,, and Slant that can be tapped into.

Your goal as a community contributor should be to help others. Share the best practices, assist individuals in solving problems, and contribute useful content to the community. Be subtle about your startup’s promotion, and make sure that you don’t overdo it.

  1. Get started early on inbound marketing

Startup founders often overlook this marketing channel at the beginning, only to realize the tremendous potential of Google Search. According to a survey by Statista, Google had over 267 million unique U.S. visitors in October 2020. By offering relevant content to these visitors, you will be able to generate relevant free traffic over time. 

Start by focusing on inbound marketing during the early days of your startup. While it may take a few months to see results, it will be a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Inbound marketing is the process of generating interest by providing relevant and valuable content to your target audience. 

It is a process that focuses on attracting customers by gaining their trust and loyalty with the help of inbound channels like blogs, social media, and email marketing.

Try not to over-promote your product or be biased when creating content. Instead, create helpful content that provides value to the readers.

  1. Cold email prospects in your industry

Cold email is one of the best ways to land your first customers. Finding the email addresses of your prospects is relatively straightforward, and you can reach out to a large volume of people relatively quickly.

The best cold emails do a few things right. It is important to make your subject line appealing and get people’s attention so they will open your email. It has to evoke a sense of curiosity and intrigue. 

Your next goal is to make an irresistible offer that fixes the reader’s problem. Since you are approaching the person out of the blue, it is crucial to establish credibility with the person and let them know that you are trustable

In this case, you will need social proof of how you helped a previous client. By showing how you have helped another company within their space, you gain the confidence that you too could help them.

Once you have figured out how to craft the perfect cold email, you need a list of prospects and their email addresses. 

In most cases, finding a list of prospects isn’t difficult if you are familiar with your niche. The website Crunchbase, for instance, allows you to find companies and filter them according to your criteria

But it does get a little tricky while finding the actual email address of a person. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools available to help you do this such as Hunter and Adapt Prospector

  1. Set up affiliate marketing 

Affiliate marketing is the most cost-effective way for startups to generate revenue. It is ideal for startups seeking exponential growth without having to spend money on marketing. 

Affiliate marketing is a way to generate revenue for your company without any upfront investment. There is a low barrier to entry and people with an audience can easily promote your startup on their website, blogs and social media to get a share of the revenue. The affiliate receives a commission you agreed upon for bringing the customer to you.

Additionally, it’s great for SEO, as affiliates can link to your website and drive traffic to your website.

Because you only pay for conversions and not for traffic to your website, it is a powerful revenue-generating strategy. 

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